ISLAMABAD – Tens of thousands of protesters armed with wire cutters and backed by cranes broke through barriers protecting Pakistan’s parliament and other government buildings Tuesday night, demanding the country’s prime minister resign.
Government authorities had warned they would not allow protesters to enter Islamabad’s Red Zone, but the demonstrators met no immediate resistance from police or troopsguarding the buildings.
Wearing masks and carrying makeshift shields, they hammered through barbed wire and locks connecting shipping containers erected as a barrier around the zone, which also holds the president’s and prime minister’s ceremonial homes and many diplomatic posts.
Demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, they shouted, Go, Nawaz, go! Excited young men and women made V-for-victory signs.
A government minister, Saad Rafiq, said the prime minister allowed the protesters to enter the sensitive area to avoid bloodshed.
The Pakistani army warned the protesters against entering parliament or any other installation. It called on all sides to resolve the situation through discussion.
Men, women and children took part in the protest by some 30,000 supporters of opposition candidate Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.
Both men have called on Sharif to step down over allegations of fraud in last year’s election. Sharif has refused and ordered the soldiers out into the streets, the first such military deployment in the capital under any civilian government in Pakistani history.